New Delhi: Mumbai Magicians coach Ric Charlesworth Wednesday conceded that it would be hard for his team to find replacements for the four Pakistani players who were sent back home following cross-border tension.
"They were the best players. We can't replace them as they were very good. Our Pakistan goalkeeper Imran Butt was among the best goalkeepers in the world. We lost four best players of our team. Obviously, it will take us some time to find their replacements," Charlesworth told reporters after the match against Delhi Waveriders.
All the nine Pakistani players were today sent back from the Hockey India League following protests over the killing of Indian soldiers. After protests by Shiv Sena and other right-wing organisations disrupted the training and the first match of the league, Hockey India took the decision to send back the Pakistani players considering the "extra-ordinary circumstances".
Mumbai Magicians lost their tournament opener to Delhi Waveriders 1-2 here but Charlesworth said the boys played "terrific" hockey. "Our team played some terrific hockey. We were short of some players but I am proud of the way my wards performed today. We picked the youngest team for today's game. We need to work on few areas," he said.
Asked about Sandeep's missed chance in the dying minutes of the game, the former Indian coach said, "Some umpiring decisions did not go our way. That's all I can say." He said it will still take some time to comment upon the standard of competition in the HIL. "Hockey has been good so far but it's too early to say anything about the competition. It will take us a couple of days to find out."
Delhi Waveriders captain Sardar Singh was a relieved man after his team registered its second consecutive win and said, "Our young players are performing well. They have grabbed the opportunity from both hands. Our team is strong with some experienced players in our rank." However, the skipper wasn't happy with his forwardline and said they need to work towards strengthening it.
"We need ti improve our forwardline. We missed many chances in our first game against Punjab Warriors and script remained the same today as we missed 6-7 chances goal conversion chances. If we play to our potential, these are the teams whom we can beat 4-1 or 5-1 any given day," he said.
Sardar termed as "unlucky" the departure of Pakistani players from the league. "We have lost two good Pakistani players in the form of Mohammed Rizwan Sr and Mohammed Rizwan Jr. Especially Rizwan Sr was more efficient. It's unlucky they are not part of the league. We will surely miss them but the strength of our team remains good," he signed off.